Teachers and ARCs

*This is a revised and updated version of a post I published on the blog back in 2011.  

I feel like I walk a fine line as a blogger sometimes. First and foremost, I am a bibliophile.  But I am also a high school English teacher, a lover of technology, and a book reviewer.  Because I review books that I receive from publishers and at conferences, I am fortunate to receive ARCs, or advance review copies, sometimes.  This means I get to read and review some books before they are published.

ARCs and review copies I picked up at NCTE this past November. All ARCs went to my classroom library.

I teach at a fabulous high school that shares a campus with the local community college.  We do not have a school library, but the students have access to the campus library at all times.  This means they can access databases, journals, and other periodicals that most high schools can’t afford.  But it also means that they do not have a library geared towards high schoolers.  There is no YA section, no popular fiction section, no best-sellers shelf.  Thus, my classroom library is utilized by many students in my school of almost 300.

All over the country, education budgets are being slashed, teachers are having their pay cut, and school librarians are being RIFed.  Classroom libraries, which are almost always to be teacher-funded (out of teachers’ own pockets), are certainly suffering.  However, research shows that classroom libraries are vital – they encourage students to read more!  We need to do everything we can to encourage students to become lifelong readers.  But it takes a village to raise a reader.

According to research, school libraries should provide at least 13 books per student. That means I need 3900 books for my students!  Those books should be age-appropriate, showcase a variety of genres, support the curriculum, and reflect student interests. I am going to be honest here- I can not afford to purchase the dozens of books my students need every year.  I pay for all of the books in my classroom library, just like most teachers.  In my case, I am very lucky because I do receive review copies and ARCs, from publishers and at conferences like NCTE.  For other teachers, this means ordering from Scholastic, visiting warehouse sales, soliciting donations from students/parents, and looking longingly at those new titles in the bookstore but knowing it’s impossible to buy them all.

As a blogger/reviewer, I know I am extremely lucky.  I have access to review copies and ARCs, which are all placed in my classroom library.  Publishers value the “buzz” that is generated by these early copies and my students love that they get a chance to read books before they are officially published.  I start the year by explaining what ARCs are and showing the students some unfinished copies.  My sixth-graders and my high schoolers both understood that ARCs are not finished works and may differ from the final draft.  But ARCs work wonders with readers.

ARCs are magical.  Nothing hooks a reluctant reader like the promise of reading a story before the rest of the world has access to it.  That, plus the knowledge that they can share their thoughts on Goodreads is the best motivator I have!  I utilize ARCs almost daily in my classroom.  At the beginning of the school year, I explain ARCs to my students.  We analyze a few older copies (whatever hasn’t fallen apart from the year before) and note the differences between ARCs and finished copies.  This ensures that the students are aware that ARCs are not final copies and may have errors in them, lack illustrations, and so on.  The students are usually fascinated by this because they have not had access to ARCs in the past or never knew they existed.

I show the students our ARCs shelf and explain how it will be updated whenever I get new ARCs.  I tell the students that they are free to borrow ARCs at any time, but there is one requirement: they must share their ARC experience after reading it.  This can mean writing a review on Goodreads, passing the recommendation on to a friend, or ordering a finished copy of their own.  Whenever I get a new ARC, I try to booktalk it before placing it in the library.  As soon as I mention “ARC”, students wake up and pay attention.

ARCs help me decide how to develop my classroom library collection, too.  If an ARC catches fire and is passed from student to student, falling apart as it moves through the class, I know I need to order a few finished copies.  This happened with The Hunger Games when I taught 6th grade. My single ARC was in tatters before the finished copies were published, long before most people knew who Katniss, Gale, and Peeta were.  I knew I would need more than one copy on my bookshelf because the ARC was so popular.  Needless to say, I was right.  More recently, my ARC of Matthew Quick’s Boy21  became popular with many of my students and I made sure to purchase a finished copy for the classroom library. If an ARC has a small, but dedicated, fanbase, I make sure I put a single copy in the classroom. If an ARC has a rabid following, then I will try to find more than one copy. ARCs usually last a season or two in my classroom before falling apart, so it is imperative that I replace the most popular and well-loved ARCs with finished copies!

Unfortunately, many teachers don’t have access to ARCs because they don’t blog, can’t afford to attend conferences, and aren’t aware of local publisher previews.  That is why I started #ARCsFloatOn.  ARCs can not be cataloged in libraries (public or school) because they are not finished copies.  They also can not be sold.  Thus, many reviewers end up throwing ARCs away after they read them, often long before the finished copies are produced.  There are thousands of teachers across the country who are dying to give those ARCs a second chance.  They put them in classroom libraries, give them to student groups, and use them to make collection development decision.

#ARCsFloatOn encourages reviewers to recycle those ARCs and get them into the hands of kids and teens!

ARCs Float On is a grassroots effort by  me, a Reach A Reader Advisory Board member.  The program aims to get ARCs into classroom libraries by matching willing donors with needy teachers.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Teachers interested in being contacted by donors may register here. Your information will be vetted and added to our searchable database. Reviewers with books to donate may search the database for schools. Donors are then responsible for contacting teachers with a list of the books they have available, and to arrange for shipping or dropoff of the books–it’s up to both parties how to “float” the ARCs. Donors are responsible for all arrangements and shipping costs. We just provide you with the means to connect.

I’ve shipped many middle grade and elementary ARCs to other teachers, using Priority Mail flat rate boxes.  For approximately $11 I can ship 15-20 books to another teacher.  Most of the time, the teachers are willing to pay shipping costs, which makes it even easier for the donors.

If you are interested in donating books, you may check our database at the #ARCsFloatOn website.

By donating the books that you receive for free, you are promoting awareness of great books and authors, helping teachers and librarians, and encouraging more reading. You can learn even more about this initiative through the Twitter hashtag, #ARCsFloatOn.

I can’t imagine not having the opportunity to share ARCs with my students.  Like a librarian or bookseller, I am constantly handselling books to my students.  A highly coveted ARC can turn into 10-20 book sales within my school.  But more importantly, at least to me, an ARC can turn  a dormant reader into a voracious reader.  Having the opportunity to read a story and share an opinion before the general public can attract dormant readers to my classroom library.  And reading one book can lead to reading another.  It can lead to a student finding a favorite author or a genre they enjoy.  And that means we all win.  This is why e-ARCs don’t work for me.  I need paper copies because e-ARCs expire and can not be shared with my students.  I would hate to see paper ARCs eliminated.  Instead, I want to see paper ARCs getting a second and third chance at life in classroom libraries!

*#ARCsFloatOn is endorsed by many of the major publishers!  They are happy to see ARCs getting into the hands of students. :)  ARCs can not be cataloged in a library, but classroom libraries are a-ok.  The ARCs don’t last long (a season or so) and most teachers then end up purchasing a hardcover copy.  Again, a win-win for publishers and students alike.

Other posts I have written about using ARCs in the classroom:

#ARCsFloatOn- How Bloggers Can Help

ARCs and Authors, Bloggers and Blogs! My Oh My!

ARCs Float On

*Edited to add: Bloggers and teachers who are interested in being a part of the program, fill out the survey

ARCsFloatOn Matchmaker Survey

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Since starting at my new school, I have not been blogging as much.  I’ve been working on my curriculum, getting to know my students as readers, and grading a lot!  I have been trying to keep up with my reading, though, and I’ve been posting reviews here on the blog (with more to come).  My to-be-read pile of books continues to grow exponentially, adding titles from blogger reviews, student suggestions, and review books that I receive.

I get a lot of books for review.  At least twice each week I come home to find packages on the porch.  Right now, as a Cybils panelist, I am receiving review copies of the nominated  YA/middle grade nonfiction titles.  Some of the books I receive are finished copies and others are ARCs (advanced readers copies).  I read as many as I can, posting reviews here and on Goodreads. Publishers value the “buzz” that is generated by these early copies and my students love that they get a chance to read books before they are officially published.  I start the year by explaining what ARCs are and showing them some unfinished copies.  My sixth-graders and my high schoolers both understood that ARCs are not finished works and may differ from the final draft.  But ARCs work wonders with readers.  Even the most reluctant reader can be swayed when they realize they are first. They are holding a copy of the book before almost anyone else.

After I read, my ARCs and review copies are put in my classroom library.  Upcoming books are shelved separately, drawing in reluctant readers.  ARCs that have been published (and physically survived my classroom) are moved onto the general shelves  of my library.  Books that are not a good fit for my classroom are given to other teachers.  My sister teaches high school special ed and is just starting her classroom library.  I brought her boxes of high-interest but low-level books this summer.  I also give middle grade titles and elementary titles to other friends who teach those grade levels.  The teachers are always extremely grateful. Plus, my husband is happy because the books are out of our house!  (Honestly, it is only temporary because more books soon replace those that are gone).

Classroom libraries are a vital part of students’ lives.  According to Scholastic’s Classroom Libraries Work: Research & Results,

By providing access to a rich classroom library, teachers promote greater amounts of reading, increased reading frequency, and more diverse reading experiences among their students, thus helping them to attain greater levels of reading achievement.

Unfortunately, almost all teachers fund their classroom libraries on their own.  This means ordering from Scholastic, visiting warehouse sales, soliciting donations from students/parents, and looking longingly at those new titles in the bookstore but knowing it’s impossible to buy them all.  I am extremely lucky; as a reviewer, I have access to the newest titles.  But for most of my friends, this is not true.  The economy has hit schools and teachers hard.  Spending extra money on trade books for the classroom library is hard to justify when it means your own family might do without something else.  Schools are spending their money elsewhere, unable to fund classroom libraries.

While joining in the monthly Twitter chat for #titletalk, Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) and I started talking about this issue.  I brought up the fact that I know many bloggers who are inundated with titles and have nowhere to donate them.  ARCs can not be sold or cataloged by an actual library, so many are thrown out.  Most public libraries are unable to accept donations of review copies, or finished copies.  (I know mine can not, and I have tried, and tried!)

I suggested that we start a campaign to encourage book reviewers and bloggers to donate their review books and advanced reader copies to classrooms and charities in their communities. I know many of the reviewers already donate their books to local schools, libraries, and literacy charities.  However, I talked to many on Twitter who did not know what to do with their copies.

This is my plea- find a worthy charity or a local classroom teacher.  Give them your ARCs and review copies when you are done.  Tweens and teens NEED access to good books, new literature.  Reviewers are in a special position here and can really help out in these tough economic times.  If you receive free books from publishers (ARCs or review copies!), please consider donating your review books. By donating the books that you receive for free, you are promoting awareness of great books and authors, helping teachers and librarians, and encouraging more reading. Learn more about this initiative or connect to a classroom through the Twitter hashtag, #ARCsFloatOn.

If you are interested, and don’t know how to get matched with a local teacher, feel free to comment here or Tweet me.  I would be happy to do some matchmaking!

*Please remember, ARCs can not be cataloged by an actual library.  However, personal classroom libraries can accept ARCs!

Edited to add:

Want to be matched?  Fill out the survey!

Books I Want to Read

I find that I am constantly adding to my list of “must-read books”. It’s all the kidlitosphere’s fault, I tell you! Everyday I read new reviews of books that I suddenly have to read. On the one hand, I wonder how I ever found books before blogging. On the other hand, I now know why I am so poor. :) With the holidays coming up, I will continue to be poor, but I can still wish (and make wishlists)!

Here are the latest additions to my list of books I must, must, must read as soon as humanly possible. ;)

The Luxe: I admit it, I was a huge fan of the Gossip Girls series a few years ago. Now, I am utterly addicted to the TV show. Yes, it seems a little trashy, but we all need a break sometimes. The Luxe has been reviewed sporadically around the kidlitosphere (it is a YA title), and I am already in love with it! This is at the top of my list.

Letters from Rapunzel: I love reading stories that rework our favorite fairy tales. I also love authors who know that kids can read books about intense issues. Letters from Rapunzel takes two of my favorites and places them in one book. I need to get my hands on this one!

Sweethearts: Sara Zarr. Need I say more?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox: Mary Pearson is a fellow blogger, and I have been lurking on her blog lately. I love the blurb for this book and can’t wait to read it.

The Declaration I saw this book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble last week, and the cover immediately caught my eye. Then, I read the inside cover to discover that it is a science-fiction/dystopian novel (one of my favorites). I definitely need this book!

Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer (Faeries of Dreamdark): Ok, ok! Every blog I read calls this one of the best books of the year. I need to read it so that I can make that judgement myself. :)

The Host: A Novel: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Meyer’s “Twilight” series. Love it. It is one of my biggest guilty pleasures. I am very interested in seeing what Meyer’s first adult novel is like. I heard that ARCs are finally making their way out into the world…..

I should probably stop there. I have too many books on my wishlist. And it only grows bigger everyday!

Books I Have Recently Added to My Wishlist

Here are the most recent additions to my Amazon Wishlist, thanks to reading reviews around the Kidlitosphere!

Squiggles pb: A Really Giant Drawing and Painting Book by Taro Gomi-  Thanks to a review by Mary Lee over at  A Year of Reading, I am dying to get my hands on this book.  I would love to do something similar to her idea of having my students complete the book this year.  What a great, tangible reminder of the class! 

Howtoons: The Possibilities Are Endless! by Saul Griffiths-  I’m not sure where I saw this book mentioned.  I know I did read a brief review of it, but of course I can’t find it right now.  However, I know my kids would love this book.  It’s definitely way up there on my wishlist!

Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher- I stumbled on a review on Bookshelves of Doom that really sold me on this book.  It is the only one I have ordered so far off the list.  I am considering it for a read-aloud later this year and am looking forward to reading it.  Donuthead has been quietly making the rounds in my class, so I think this novel would be popular.  

The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle-  Again, I can not for the life of me remember where I saw this book mentioned.  It will not be released until March ’08, but it sounds fascinating!  I have a lot of students this year who love dystopian stories and this sounds right up their alley(s).  One of the blurbs I have read compares the story to The Giver, another favorite of mine. Anyone know where I can get my hands on an ARC of this book? 

The Postcard by Tony Abbott- My students this year LOVE mysteries.  Abbott’s newest book (April ’08) sounds like a perfect match.  A dead grandmother, a mysterious phone call, and a strange antique postcard all add up to an interesting summer for the main character.  I would love to preview this for my kids, so I have been trying to hunt down an ARC.  I also know a lot of my students who would love to preview this for the rest of the class.

It’s funny- I have a 12 page long Amazon wishlist.  Less than 25% of the list is my own personal choices.  The majority are books I want to add to my classroom library.  Thankfully, I LOVE reading middle grade/YA literature or else I would be in big trouble. :)   I need to start attending more conferences where ARCs are available, I think!   The few ARCs I do have are extremely popular in my classroom.  My students love reviewing books and the allure is even greater when they know it is a book that “no one else has read yet!”  Their recommendations frequently cause other students to rush out and buy their own copy of the book because my classroom copy usually has a waiting list (with 45 students in 2 classes, a waiting list grows quickly!).  Being able to review new books is a great motivation for my students and I want to be able to encourage that! 

Window shopping

Am I the only one who window shops online? For the past two days, I have been filling, emptying, and refilling my carts on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. Amazon is running their 4-for-3 promo and I am dying for some new books. However, I never order from Amazon without trying the same order at BN, to compare the final price. So far, I am coming up pretty even on most of my combinations for both sites. The problem is, I can’t pull the trigger!

I wish books weren’t so expensive. Although, I would have a house even more full than I do right now, if that were the case. Anyway, these are the books I am considering: Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes(thanks to a review on Mentor Texts), The Secret Under My Skin by Janet Mcnaughton, Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson, The Periodic Table by Adrian Dingle (thanks to a mention in the Cybils nominations!), and Shug by Jenny Han.

All of these books have been reviewed in the kidlitosphere and have caught my eye over the past month or so. Of course, I can’t seem to commit to buying them! Part of the problem is that I just received my invitation to the Holiday Scholastic Warehouse Sale. I know I will spend a good amount of money at the warehouse sale, so it’s hard to convince myself to buy new books before then! At the same time, I know that neither the warehouse sale nor the monthly book clubs will carry newer books for a few more months. I need to figure out how to get ARCS…..that would save me a lot of money!!!!!! It would also make it easier to let my students read and review new books (something they LOVE to do). Well, there’s another thing to add to my to-do list. :)

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